A 2005 graduate of Wellborn High School, Moss earned money painting cabinets before he applied for a job at Atlantic Tool and Die Alabama -– a metal stamping and welding auto supplier in Anniston.
Beginning as a basic press operator, Moss helped higher-level technicians when he could and learned along the way. Managers soon noticed his work and after promoting Moss, they sent him to train in welding and robotics. Moss is now a senior welding technician at the plant.
“I would say, they pretty much set me up for life,” Moss said of Atlantic Tool and Die. “I have no interest in leaving here … but I feel like I could do any company good now.”
Moss is one of 130 people employed at Atlantic Tool and Die, which came to Anniston in 2003 solely to manufacture metal brackets for the Honda automotive assembly plant in Lincoln. Though several major auto manufacturers like Honda have located in Alabama and hired many people, many more suppliers like Atlantic Tool and Die have also moved to the state, creating or supporting thousands of jobs and stimulating the overall economy.
“There is no question about it, the impact has been enormous,” Steve Sewell, vice president of the Economic Development Partnership of Alabama, said about state’s auto suppliers and the auto industry in general. “One of the reasons auto manufacturers are so coveted is because of their supply chains.”
Sewell, whose group is a private non-profit that recruits industry to Alabama, said Alabama’s major auto manufacturers each brought supply chains with them, creating many jobs around the state.
“That broadens the impact because those suppliers locate in areas throughout the region,” Sewell said.
Greg Canfield, Alabama's secretary of commerce, agreed that along with auto manufacturers, their suppliers have had a major impact on the state’s economy.
“What makes the automotive industry so attractive is it has a high multiplier factor … a lot of spin-off economic activity … and much of it is generated from the supply chain,” Canfield said. “Over 500 automotive suppliers are located in the state today … and it’s not uncommon for them to have between 250 and 300 jobs.”
According to figures from the Alabama Department of Commerce, the Honda plant has 131 auto suppliers. Of those, 37 are located in Calhoun and its neighboring counties of Etowah, Talladega and St. Clair and account for up to 3,450 jobs. By comparison, the Honda plant itself employs about 4,000 people.
Those job figures do not include numbers from two other Honda auto suppliers that recently announced they would be opening in the state. Honda supplier Newman Technology announced in late April it would be operating in Marshall County by 2013 and would employ 60 people. Another supplier, M-Tek, also announced in April it would open in Talladega by 2013 and employ nearly 200 people.
In addition, Oxford auto supplier Bridgewater Interiors, which currently employs 250 people, announced earlier this year that it will expand and create 87 new jobs by 2013 to meet new demand from Honda. Bridgewater produces seats for Honda vehicles.
Don Hopper, executive director of the Calhoun County Economic Development Council, said auto suppliers have served the area well.
“And suppliers continue to grow in our area and continue to be a target for us,” said Hopper, whose organization works to recruit industry to the county. “There’s great potential there for growth … the growth we’ve already seen and the impact from Honda, continues to get us looks from other companies.”
To Robert Robicheaux, chairman of the department of marketing, industrial distribution and economics at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, the impact of the auto industry on the state cannot be overstated.
“The middle 90s and the next 10 years, it transformed the state,” Robicheaux said of the industry.
However, Robicheaux noted that though the industry has brought greater prosperity to the state, it has also brought trouble due to the recent economic recession.
“The auto industry is a double-edged sword -– it happens to be very volatile and suffers from swings up and down. And it's suffering with the economy right now as car sales plummeted during the recession.”
Still, Robicheaux expects the auto industry in the state to recover during the next few years.
“I expect Alabama’s economy will recover a little better than the national average,” Robicheaux said. “There is still a pent-up demand for autos because people delayed purchases, which created the current slump in the industry.”
Honda has showed recent signs of improved sales. According to the company, the Japanese automaker’s North American auto sales increased by 9.2 percent in April compared to the same month last year.
Sewell said the state’s auto manufacturers and their suppliers are all poised for growth in the coming years.
“As all automakers grow, as the industry grows in the Southeast, we’ll have the opportunity to lure more auto suppliers who want more access with automakers,” Sewell said. “If our companies are successful, then we’re going to see growth. Success breeds success.”
Staff writer Patrick McCreless: 256-235-3561. On Twitter @PMcCreless_Star.